Gift Giving With A Purpose

It’s that time year when you look for that perfect gift for someone who may already have it all. Christmas is a time of giving. We are inundated every day by printed, television and radio ads trying to convince us to buy items that we really don’t need. I have another option to offer you today.

Today’s blog focuses on a more purposeful gift giving opportunity. Students at Indiana Wesleyan University are demonstrating just how gift-giving can be more purpose-filled and make a global difference. A new store under the leadership of the Division of Business provides Christmas shoppers something that helps others in developing countries around the world. The New Under the Sun store located in the Barnes Student Center will be open for two days this week (December 11 and 12) as well as after the New Year providing many gift items that were purchased through relationships of artist and small business owners from around the world. Items are purchased through a fair trade agreement that supports the local wages in communities where jobs are difficult to find because of the economic crises in those countries yet affordable for students. “We have purposefully trying to buy things that are not high-end because we know that most of the student clientèle would not be able to pay for those things,” says Division of Business chair and alumnae Dr. Harriet Rojas ’76 in a recent articles published by IWU’s student paper, IWU Sojourn. The Business’s staff consists of 30 students in Rojas’s small business management class.

Through the unique partnership between students and international artists, people can purchase Christmas gifts and know that they are also supporting international artists whose sole source of income may very well be the sale of their items. This purposeful gift-giving idea can also help “people get out of human trafficking,” says Rojas (Sojourn article). Helping international women remain free and provide a fair wage for their goods is a part of the designed purpose of the store. Rojas continues, “The ultimate objective is for us to be able to have goods in there (the store) that are helping people get out of human trafficking.” Through purchase agreements and the generous support of donors who travel abroad, we can stock the store with many items. It already has received items from India, Nepal, Peru, Ecuador, Haiti, China, Kenya, Vietnam and Mexico. Those traveling abroad should contact Dr. Rojas before simply purchase items for the store. Rojas says that “We are looking for items that have a meaningful story about the items and artists.” Alumni are getting involved with this store.

Recent grad Jacob Wheeler ’12 travels abroad as International Business Developer with PacMoore, Inc and bring back items and the story connected that can be sold through the store. “Jacob will be bringing items from Nepal in just a few days,” says Rojas. Jacob has been very conscience of his impact in the world. As a student he developed and ran the Business as Mission student organization. The student group consulted businesses on how they can make the world a better place. Through his current employment with PacMoore which is a food packaging company is a Business as Mission organization.

Another source for the New Under the Sun store is Janice Cooper Cotrone ’78 who is the connection in Haiti. She served for twenty years as a Missionary and registered nurse serving in Haiti. She makes frequent trips to Haiti. See here story here.

Lorelei Johnson Verlee is a 1972 graduate of IWU who started a business in Fort Wayne, Indiana called Creative Women of the World for the purpose of helping international artists sell their creations in the states. Her mission is “…dedicated to inspiring creative business and marketing solutions for women around the world seeking to rise out of extreme poverty, human trafficking or disaster by the power of their own creativity!”

In an article written in 2013, Business People tell her story.

“As a child of missionaries, I grew up in Japan,” says VerLee. “I came back to the United States and earned my degrees in art. But it wasn’t until I was 56 years old that I got the chance to do mission work that was integrated with art.”

VerLee was asked to volunteer as a product designer and marketing director for HAPI (pronounced “happy”), or Haitian Artisans for Peace International. Four years later, in July of 2011, she incorporated Creative Women of the World (CWoW) because she felt women’s needs circled the globe.

Lorelei is making a difference in our world in a very special way. In a 2012 radio interview by on Midday Matters a program heard on 89.1 WBOI (an NPR Radio program). Lorelei comments, “It is never too late! At 56, I finally found my ultimate life purpose.” She represents a World Changers in a creative way. But it is more than a business. Verlee says, “It’s not just a store,” says VerLee. “CWoW is a non-profit organization and part of a movement that is changing the lives of women in impoverished countries. These women are beautiful and talented, but are often made to feel as if they have nothing to offer because they are resource-deprived.”

Lorelei spoke this past fall on the Marion Campus of IWU telling her story to students during a scholarship luncheon event. “Her consultation helps us redesign the store that opened in September,” says Rojas.

It should also be noted that not only does the store support international artists but it helps IWU students develop business understanding as well. In a recent interview Rojas said, “This store teaches students management and financial skills as well as helping them learn how to be successful while developing their faith.”

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One Reply to “Gift Giving With A Purpose”

  1. Thank you for sharing about the beautiful work the IWU business students, connected with the “New Under the Son” Fair Trade store, did this fall. It was a joy to watch as they brought the vision alive and we worked together to create visual impact that helps tell the story of each artisan whose life is empowered. I know our world IS changed when our community supports this store! More power to you!

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